Public concern on whether Hong Kong’s express rail link will be deployed for military use is likely to be a focus of discussion at the Legislative Council when the finance committee starts a two-day debate on the government’s request for additional funding for the project on Friday.
In a post on the government’s social media page on Tuesday, the Transport and Housing Bureau dismissed claims that the project is being built to serve any military purpose, stressing that it is intended for civilian use alone.
Speculation over the reasons behind the construction of the cross-border rail link intensified after local media quoted a report from the People’s Liberation Army Daily (PLA Daily) as saying that the project will be used for both civilian and military purposes.
On top of mobilizing soldiers, the high-speed railway would be used to transport tanks, missiles or any other heavy weapons in case of war, according to the mainland report.
Soldiers with light weaponry could gain quick access to any city within the railway network, the PLA Daily said.
A drill with a small team of soldiers traveling on the railway was conducted successfully in Nanjing as early as in May 2012.
Since last month, local critics have aired suspicions that the rail network, ostensibly designed to facilitate cross-border travel, could serve military purposes.
Neo-democrat District Councillor Roy Tam recently uploaded a video on social media, pointing out that the location of a rail depot in the Hong Kong section of the rail network is only a few minutes’ walk from the PLA camp in Shek Kong.
He suspects the rail link could be used to help facilitate the deployment of PLA troops to Hong Kong when needed.
In an article on its editorial page on Thursday, pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po assailed Age of Resistance (青年重奪未來), a localist group that opposes the construction of express link, for allegedly spreading groundless rumors that the railway will serve military purposes and allow the quick deployment of PLA troops into Hong Kong.
The newspaper said such claims defied common sense and were ill-intentioned.
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